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Android developer—among other things

Building thumb-friendly apps

Studies indicate that most people use a single hand and just the thumb while using their mobile devices 1. Keeping this in mind, it makes sense to design apps that are easy to navigate with just the thumb. Though it might seem a bad idea to design the app to suit the preference of only a percentage of total users, making an app ‘thumb-friendly’ benefits other users too.

Two ways of holding phones


A few ways to build such ‘thumb-friendly’ apps

Use lists

Grids are suitable for images but for content that is primarily text, ListViews and single or double-column CardViews are a better choice since all list elements can be easily scrolled to pass within the range of the thumb.

Use FloatingActionButtons

Though the reaction to Android FloatingActionButtons from the design community is mixed, I feel they are a great way to provide the primary features of the app in a way that is accessible and unobstrusive. There are many flavors of the button on the internet that extend their functionality to add muliple buttons and labels. ( If you’d like to check the one I’m working on, you can browse it on Github. The Medium app has a FloatingActionButton that vanishes when you’re scrolling down through content preventing data from being obscured by it. Tumblr uses it to present a view with multiple circular buttons. The low-priority, less-used features can be conveniently hidden away in a ‘hamburger menu’ or in the action bar.

Use the bottom bar for displaying contextual menus

Contextual menu items can be displayed in the bottom action bar instead of the top one making it more accessible.

Bottom action bar

Figure: Bottom action bar

I’ll be adding more to this list as I think of them. Feel free to share your thoughts.